The airline industry body representing over 290 airlines calls for a global standard and response to kickstart international travel between countries as Thailand faces a ฿2 trillion loss of income. The latest poll, however, still shows the Thai public cautious but now a majority want to see tourism resume within 6 months.

The Director-General of IATA, the nucleus of the world’s airline industry, has warned that governments worldwide, drifting towards national quarantine schemes, could be giving the green light to rising unemployment in the tourism industry. It has proposed an alternative, global solution. It comes as Thailand stands to lose ฿2 trillion in lost income this year with rising levels of unemployment even as it emerges from its Covid 19 victory to confront the economic devastation brought on by the shutdown which continues to impact the economy.

The Director-General of IATA, the International Air Transport Association, Alexandre de Juniac. IATA, representing over 290 leading airlines which accounted for 82% of air flights before this emergency, has called on governments to pull back from travel bans and mandatory quarantine towards a global standard that will allow international travel and tourism to get back in the air. He has warned that the current trend leads to higher unemployment and permanent economic damage.

The Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of airline industry body IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has warned that an increasing trend among world governments to institutionalise quarantine may have startling adverse consequences for the global travel and tourism industry.

It comes as Thailand’s government on Monday appeared to be focusing on allowing entry to the kingdom on a case by case basis through a commercial quarantine scheme devised as a scalable alternative to Thai state quarantine which is only available to Thai nationals.

83% of travellers would not consider a destination where they were forced to quarantine

Alexandre de Juniac said that an opinion poll conducted among would-be travellers worldwide showed that 83% would not even consider travelling to a foreign country while facing the prospect of enforced quarantine.

Thailand faces certain loss  ฿2.2 trillion 

Thailand is facing a loss of ฿2.2 trillion in tourist income, based in increasingly dire projections for foreign arrivals into the kingdom as the coronavirus emergency continues. 

This would be based on achieving 8 million visitors this year of which 6.7 million had already arrived before the close of Thailand’s airways came into effect on April 4th.

These figures were brought into relief when Tourism Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, earlier in June, urged caution at projecting tourism figures for 2020. 

The figures are in line with a projection by Siam Commercial Bank’s economic analysis unit which has predicted an 81% fall in visitors and a 73% contraction in income from foreign tourism for the year.

IATA boss urges all governments to pull back from quarantine measures driving unemployment

This week, the IATA Director-General urged governments worldwide to pull back from compulsory quarantine. 

‘Safely restarting the economy is a priority. That includes travel and tourism. Quarantine measures may play a role in keeping people safe, but they will also keep many unemployed,’ Mr de Juniac pointed out.

Thailand’s incoming passenger ban saw the country’s incoming visitors fall off by 97% for May after a 99.3% reduction in April.

The IATA boss said that with quarantine requirements, most countries could look forward to a 90% drop off.

Concern that this hiatus could cause permanent damage to the travel and tourism industry

The concern among many travel industry and business analysts is that this prolonged hiatus could result in a permanent closure of capacity and efficiency within the tourism and hospitality industry. 

Last week, the CEO of Thai Air Asia, Nadda Buranasiri, while advocating a Pan Asean tourism bubble offered to visit each foreign embassy in Bangkok to bring plans together to kick start international air travel which has been left paralysed by this shutdown.

It came on the week that Thai Singaporean airline and joint venture, Nok Scoot, announced its closure and liquidation leaving 450 staff, many of them in Thailand out of jobs for good.

Call for a global approach

This week, Mr de Juniac called for a worldwide approach working through IATA which represents 290 of the large airline carriers worldwide and before this crisis, 82% of the world’s passenger traffic. 

He outlined a new regime where ill passengers would be screened and prevented from travelling.

In addition to non-invasive temperature checks, he called for rapid testing and results delivered at airports of departure for all passengers travelling from ‘high risk’ countries.

Easy, accurate and quick testing at airports of departure worldwide called for by IATA boss

The airline industry boss said that, if it was well organised, such testing could be achieved efficiently without long waits or congestion building up at airports. He also stressed that the accuracy of such tests must be high.

One of the contributing factors to the world shutdown over this pandemic was initial confusion caused by false test kits and shoddy testing.

This has now dramatically improved with highly efficient and more accurate testing based on new technology developed by firms such as pharmaceutical giant Roche which developed a new serology test at the end of April.

On arrival at destination airports, Mr de Juniac called for the use of apps such as that used by Thai authorities before the closure of the country using information technology to track and monitor visitors.

Implementation of existing guidelines on flights except social distancing which makes flying unviable

Mr de Juniac emphasised that this approach would have to be a global one and called for the adoption of guidelines laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which include face mask requirements, sanitisation and declarations of health.

It also includes social distancing but this raises a question about the economic viability of flying in such conditions.

Change in Thai public’s attitude with more disposed to opening up the kingdom’s borders

Some weeks ago, a Suan Dusit Poll in Thailand showed a massive 76% of people opposed to an immediate reopening of Thailand for tourism while a combined 82% estimated it would take one year for tourism and access to Thailand to return to normal.

A new survey, this week, conducted by YouGov among the Thai public with paid for respondents shows that that opposition to reopening the kingdom to tourism may be softening somewhat although there appears to be firm resistance and caution which supports the stance being taken by the Thai government at this time.

37% are now opposed to opening the borders under any time frame while 63% would approve it based on a wait of between 3 months to a year.

26% would open the border after 3 months, a further 26% after 6 months and a further 11% again after one year.

Threat from virus and uncertainty have turned the public off tourism despite the economic impact

It appears that the fear and uncertainty amplified by media coverage and the perceived threat from the virus has made the public wary of international travel even in a country such as Thailand, highly dependent on tourism and where economic priorities have consistently weighed strongly with public opinion.

Thai traders representative warn businesses will close

This week in Bangkok, Yada Pornpetrumpa who is the President of the Khaosan Road Vendors Association lamented the current situation.

The Khaosan Road is a key centre for foreign visitors to Bangkok especially in the last two decades among younger western travellers.

‘At Khaosan, 90 per cent of the income is from tourists. If there’s no tourists, then there’s no income,’ she said. ‘If tourists can’t come in, we vendors can prepare to go out of business.’

And that is what is currently happening. 

Further reading:

Only 2,000 foreigners have yet registered to be reunited with love ones as tourism to also reopen

Key ministries met on Sunday to discuss access by foreigners to the kingdom and a tourism relaunch

Thai public says No to foreign tourism and also predicts 1 to 2 years for travel to return to normal

Only hope for foreigners locked out of Thailand as easing continues with strict controls on entry

Ministers suggest an easing of the travel ban for some tourists but a continued state of emergency

Thailand plans to prioritise Asian countries in its search for safe Covid 19 ‘tourism bubble’ partners

Australian envoy says his embassy and others continue to work on helping stranded foreigners get home

Access to Thailand opening up. It will be cautious, quite expensive with tight regulation and ministry controls

Thai security chief suggests a full reopening of the kingdom to international flights from July 1st

New normal for foreigners seeking access to Thailand even after flights resume if virus persists as a factor

Growing concern and frustration among a large number of expats cut off from their families in Thailand

Australian man’s heartbreak cut off from his Thai wife – begs to be included on repatriation flights

Thailand extends ban on inbound flights until July 1st at the earliest – blow to foreigners and tourism

Spouses of Thai wives down under denied access to limited repatriation flights from Australia this week

Australian retiree is spending his own pension money on supporting the poor during the crisis in Chiang Mai

Stranded 66-year-old German tourist seeks help on the street from a Good Samaritan in central Bangkok

Police in Phuket await post mortem results after deaths of two elderly westerners last weekend at home

Stranded Russians offered free food in Phuket as Aeroflot begins to airlift over 21,000 stranded home to safety

Thai Expats Stranded Overseas Due To COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Farangs Stranded Abroad Due to lockdown in Thailand

Conditions tighten, grow more tense for visitors staying on in Thailand during the to coronavirus emergency